NEW YORK (AP) - Jeffrey Epstein signed a will just two days before he killed himself in the Manhattan federal jail, new court records show, opening a new legal front in what could be a yearslong battle over the financier's fortune.
Court papers filed last week in the US Virgin Islands list no details of beneficiaries but put the estate at more than $577 million, including more than US$56 million (S$77.6 million) in cash.
The existence of the will, first reported by the New York Post, raised new questions about Epstein's final days inside the Metropolitan Correctional Centre, where he was awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.
His signing of the document foreshadowed his Aug 10 suicide, a jailhouse death that has prompted multiple federal inquiries and cast a harsh light on staffing shortages at the Manhattan facility.
Prosecutors on Monday (Aug 19) moved to dismiss the indictment against Epstein but have said they are considering whether to charge others with facilitating his alleged abuse of dozens of girls.
The filing of the will, meanwhile, had been closely followed by lawyers representing women who claim they were sexually abused by Epstein years ago when they were teenagers and recruited into his residences to provide him massages.
Several attorneys vowed to go after his assets even if the will had named beneficiaries, as Epstein's death means there will be no trial on the criminal charges against him.
"Give his entire estate to his victims. It is the only justice they can get," one of those lawyers, Lisa Bloom, wrote in an email. "And they deserve it. And on behalf of the Epstein victims I represent, I intend to fight for it."
Former federal prosecutor David S. Weinstein, who is now in private practice in Miami but not involved in the Epstein case, said states and US territories have certain timeframes within which to make a claim against someone's estate.
"There are certainly going to be a lot of lawyers involved," Weinstein said. "It's not going to be over any time soon."
As part of his 2008 plea deal to Florida state charges, Epstein made undisclosed financial settlements with dozens of his victims. It's unclear how those settlements might affect any new claims made on his estate.
William Blum, an attorney for Epstein's estate, said in a statement to The Associated Press that any debts or claims against the estate will be "fairly administered." He said the document was Epstein's original last will.